Five things you need to know about the Year 6 SATs Reading paper

Help your child ace the May tests with advice from the York Notes experts!


When it comes to preparing for the SATs, forewarned is forearmed. As well as brushing up on the skills and knowledge that have formed the staples of your child’s educational diet at primary school, a heads-up on what the papers actually look like can help boost your child’s performance.

Fortunately, there’s no need to expect the unexpected. The format of the Year 6 SATs papers is defined by guidelines, which means that it doesn’t change that much year-on-year. Here’s what you and your child need to know about the main types of question in the hour-long Reading paper and how to prepare for them.

Multiple-choice questions

As you’d expect, these give your child several answers to choose from and are usually pretty straightforward. Your child might be asked to select the closest meaning to a word or phrase in the text or choose the most likely reason for a character’s actions.

When you practise SATs questions at home, encourage your child to think whether or not they know the answer to the question before looking at the multiple-choice options. If one of the options matches their idea, it’s more likely they’ve hit upon the right answer. The 3-Step Test Booster for Reading is packed with SATs questions in manageable 10-, 15- and 20-minute tests to help familiarise your child with the question formats they will encounter in the real tests.

Ordering questions

To tackle these questions, your child needs to order events or facts in the sequence that they appear in the text. When you read with your child at home, ask them to summarise the key events in a story or facts in an information text (for example, an article from a favourite magazine or a non-fiction book on a hobby or interest) to help them get the hang of this. You could turn it into a game where each player (you included!) has to summarise a text in five sentences.

Matching questions

Matching questions usually involve drawing lines to pair up corresponding information presented in boxes. This could be sections of the text which need to be matched to a summary of the content from that section or a quotation from it. A good strategy to use at home is to ask your child to suggest a subheading for a section of a non-fiction text or an alternative title for a chapter.

Find and copy questions

Find and copy questions usually test your child’s understanding of the meaning of words and phrases. They might be asked to find and copy words or phrases that show us that someone was afraid, for instance. As you read with your child, ask them to point out the words or phrases that tell you about something specific, such as what the weather is like or how a character is feeling.

Written response questions

Some questions may need only a one-word answer (‘Who sees the creature first?’ or ‘In what year did the ship set sail?’) but other questions will require a longer response, often using evidence from the text to justify ideas. Your child won’t be marked on spelling, punctuation or grammar but their answers do need to convey the key points clearly. These questions can be harder to prepare your child for while you read with them but the Complete Revision and Test Practice study guide from York Notes has guidance, practice activities and SATs questions to help your child to tackle these more in-depth questions.


Emilie Martin is a Primary Education Consultant at York Notes and an experienced primary teacher and English subject leader.